Friday, May 30, 2014

Reflections on Bell's Lake

We managed another paddle last week, this time into Bell's Lake, a small piece of Canadian wilderness dropped down in rural southern Ontario, only 10 minutes from Markdale.  Bell's Lake is almost totally undeveloped (apart from two old boathouses), and you immediately feel like you're getting away from civilization into the northern wilderness!

It was a dark and threatening morning, but it never rained til we were finished.  It left the shoreline looking ominous in places though.

It appears that the water level has risen at some point in time, flooding inland along the shore, and killing a fair number of trees.  The result is lots of trees fallen along the edges, providing some interesting reflections.

We did see a beaver swimming into the shore at one point, and a few birds circling, but otherwise no wildlife.  And you can't land anywhere, as the shoreline is swamp; you'd be stepping out into water.
The lake is rather convoluted, with bays and narrow inlets where we were threading our way past the fallen dead trees.  I enjoy following the shoreline rather than cutting across the open lake.

I liked the bright green of this sedge just emerging along the shore.  Bell's Lake is almost entirely in public ownership, protected for conservation, so it's wonderful to think that this little bit of wilderness will always be there to explore in the future.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Georgian Bay - Water, Skies, Rock

On the Victoria Day weekend we headed for a walk along the shore of Georgian Bay at Craigleith Park, taking a picnic lunch.  Our daughter, her husband and our grandson were visiting, and we had a great outing on the rocky shore, blue skies overhead and blue water beside us.

This shoreline is one of the remarkable geological features of Georgian Bay, the huge flat slabs of the Lindsay Formation,  It's a fossiliferous shaly limestone, and notable for the very flat surface which makes a great shoreline walk!

At the west end of the beach, these slabs were dipping very gradually into the bay, providing large areas of very shallow water through which you could see the bottom clearly.  Even though the waves were very gentle that day, they were able to wash up several metres over the limestone.

I find the colour combinations of the sky with the reddish brown shallow water and the deep blue of the water further out in the bay make a striking picture.  This is Georgian Bay at its best.

We headed east along the shore, past some fishermen, hunting among the rocks for fossils and watching our step.  Remarkably our 4-year old grandson never did get wet, though he had a great time!

The most common fossils here are trilobites, or more correctly trilobite tails like this one.  This rock has been called 'bituminous shale' for the carbon content, and one enterprising pioneer tried to extract oil from it for a short time back in the 19th century.

At one point we passed about three families of Canada Geese, the families all combined while the parents watched over the young.  There were at least 15 or 18 young ones.

I found I just couldn't get enough pictures of this shoreline, and the light conditions were near perfect.

At the east end of the beach the rock rises very gradually until it's nearly a foot out of the water, but still flat to walk on.

 We turned around, headed west and I got one last picture before we left.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Crevice Springs Trail

We walked the Crevice Springs Side Trail the other day, and had an interesting time exploring the crevices, while avoiding stepping in the mud where the trail crossed the little streams from the springs.  The crevices are wide breaks in the Amabel Dolostone that forms the caprock of the Niagara Escarpment, usually large enough to climb down in; the Bruce Trail goes through crevices quite often.

I find the crevice habitat fascinating.  Not getting much sun, they tend to be cooler than otherwise, and have rock walls covered in moss and ferns.  This crevice is about 20 feet deep and 6 feet wide.

The trail went right through this crevice, and you get a good look at how Eastern White Cedar can grow directly out of the limestone bedrock.  Among this species are the oldest trees ever found in eastern North America because they can be very slow growing.

Below the cliffs is the talus slope, with enormous limestone boulders, sometimes featuring rock walls of deep green moss.   This one is decorated with a line of Maidenhair Spleenwort Ferns among others.

Near the top of that rock wall was a small group of Miterwort or Bishop's Caps.  They seem to like the moss and the rock beneath it.

Here's another rock wall featuring numerous plants of the Maidenhair Spleenwort, very typical of this habitat.

And there was plenty of Northern Holly Fern.  This one illustrates well why it's called 'holly'.  The lower cascade of leaves are last year's leaves, which have stayed bright green beneath the snow.  In a lighter green are this year's new fronds just uncurling.

We didn't venture down into this crevice, which has a slick patch of ice still at the bottom, showing as a little bit of white among the leaves.

We didn't venture in here either, a crevice that has collapsed in such a way as to create a small cave.  But judging by the flagging tape marking it I suspect some people have crawled down inside.

Most of the bedrock forming the crevices is the thick blocky Amabel Dolomite, but this section of the exposed cliff is the thin-layered Manitoulin Formation, a different form of dolomite.

And these are just some bright green maple leaves I liked, catching the light against the darker cedars.

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Canoeing the Beaver River

Time flies at this time of year when you're having fun!  It's already nearly two weeks since we canoed down part of the Beaver River, first through the north end of the big swamp, and then the faster stretch downstream of Heathcote to Slabtown.  It was a cool morning, but a nice day and a great easy run in the canoe.

The big swamp is where I took the reflection pictures I posted Saturday.  The Epping Sideroad goes through the swamp near the north end, and provides a public canoe launch point.

The water was still quite high, extending far in among the trees that border the river.  Upstream we could have paddled in among the trees.

We didn't see a lot of wildlife, but encountered a couple of Cormorants shortly after we started, perched high in a dead tree.  A Great Blue Heron lifted from the shore and flew downstream ahead of us three times before it circled around us and headed back.

Before I expected it we were rounding the bend at the first bridge, the 'Flower Bridge'.  A neighbouring nursery puts big hanging baskets on this bridge for the summer, but it's too early in the season yet.  We still had frost at home a few days after this paddle.

Further downstream, a group of vultures lifted out of this tree and wheeled away, though one was brave enough to sit still, and another returned for my picture.

We stopped in Heathcote for a break ('cause there's a bakery in the village) and car shuffle, before continuing.  Beyond that point the swamp is long gone and you're paddling through a narrower valley with a few fun swifts in the river.

More than once we saw Canada Geese pairs sitting on the shoreline, presumably sitting on eggs in the nest.  The ones that weren't nesting pairs flapped madly away honking steadily, but the nesting ones just sat still.

Our trip ended at the old Slabtown dam with another convenient take-out point.  Downstream from this point the river speeds up more seriously, and the trip often consists of bouncing off rocks - not something I'm anxious to do.

A final look back upstream at our landing point.  For those of you who read my earlier paddling post this year, in which I took my single canoe, this is my regular ordinary everyday canoe, totally refinished in bright red, and quite light weight, which is how I can still handle it!

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Fernleaf Peony

We walked out to the garden today and discovered that the Fernleaf Peony has burst into bloom.  And you could hear the buzzing from several feet away - the bees were all over the plant, visiting the pollen in every blossom.  We have rarely seen such an invasion of bees on one plant.

The blooms were looking spectacular against the early morning sunlight.  This is the first of the larger, showier flowers to bloom in our garden, so it's always a nice sign of spring in the garden, and much more to come.

The one plant we have has gotten quite large, and you can see how the leaves are extremely thin, giving rise to its name.  This year it seemed to all burst into flower all in a single day.

I often find these pictures taken into the light give a unique view, even though it's tricky to get the right exposure.

The flowers were beautiful enough in their own right, but the bees were amazing, almost one on every flower, sometimes two or three, constantly moving, gathering the pollen.  We'll always associate these blooms with a low buzzing sound from now on.

Here's one picture (of about 50) that is almost clear, showing the bright orange sack of pollen this bee has gathered, hanging beside its body.  The bees were in such constant motion, it was hard to get a clear picture.

I've been watching this plant and saving these earlier pictures since it came out of the ground, a month ago today, because it looks so interesting as it grows.  The shoots are all reddish at first, and stay that way for about three weeks.

Here's a little forest of them in early May.  Their appearance at this stage is certainly unique.

By that time the flower buds were showing, though its taken them 3 weeks since to grown, turn green and finally burst into bloom.
These blooms will probably be with us for at least a few days, and hopefully a lot of bees will get fed!  One of my favourite early plants in the garden.

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Reflections in the Swamp

The weather is finally good here, sunny and 20°, so gardening is in full swing.  Picked up our tomatoes and a few other things today, along with another load of triple mix.  Hours in the garden followed, and things are looking good for a busy weekend.  In the meantime, here are a few pictures of reflections in the soft maple swamp down the Beaver River, where we set out on a paddle last week.  Hope you enjoy them.

This last one is the spot where we set out on our paddle; I'll share a few pictures of that in a day or two.

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